General Question

nromstadt's avatar

Should I be concerned about this aggressive behavior?

Asked by nromstadt (626 points ) February 7th, 2012

The other night, my boyfriend stopped by my apartment after the Superbowl. Not surprisingly, he had a bit to drink there, but was not seemingly intoxicated at this point. I had an exam the next day, and he just wanted to come over and sleep.. After a bit, I woke him up and told him to go home – as I had to study and he was a bit distracting. Somehow this turned into an argument about our relationship, and got really nasty, really fast. This is very unlike him.. he is one of the mildest tempered people I know..

Once the words got really personal and low, I just told him to leave and looked away. This made him even angrier, as he smacked what was in my hand towards the wall and yelled at me for not looking at him. He continued with it, seemingly getting angrier, as I just sat there completely caught off guard – and, quite frankly, pissed that he was acting that way. I’ve never been afraid of a man before this point.

Long story short, he finally left. Two days later, he apparently feels terrible and doesn’t know why it happened. I’m really concerned that it did… and worried that it is an indication of what’s to come. He came very close to, but did NOT touch me, or else the solution to this would be very clear.

What are your thoughts? Is it common for men to get angry when drinking? How should I handle this? I don’t want to crucify him for it… as I have no doubt in my mind that he genuinely feels terrible.. but I also don’t know how to feel now.

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44 Answers

LuckyGuy's avatar

You asked: Is it common for men to get angry when drinking? Not the guys I’m friends with.
How long have you known him? Has there even been a hint of this kind of behavior?
You have been given a warning. It is up to you to decide if you will act upon it.

chyna's avatar

You should be very concerned about this. Especially if he has no explanation. Some people can drink a lot and it not show in the form of slurred speech or stumbling. He could’ve started drinking a lot before he got to your place and the alcohol could be transforming his personality. People that do treat their S/O badly often feel terrible after the fact, but that doesn’t stop them from treating their S/O badly the next time. It is totally up to you how to handle this, but I would at the very least step back from the relationship and decide if this is the type of relationship you really want. If it is a new relationship, I would certainly leave it.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

If that’s the first watch out for the next one. The alcohol didn’t make him angry, it just made it easier for his true feelings to come out. Sure he feels terrible now. He may love you very much, but he’s still got a dark and very angry side to him. It’s got to be your call, but you’ve only seen what’s on the surface. That’s a pretty typical early scenario.

ucme's avatar

A lot of the time people will say “oh it’s only the drink talking” but it can be argued that a person’s true character shows up when under the influence of alcohol. This may or may not be the case here.

zenvelo's avatar

The time for an ultimatum is now. He needs to understand that if he ever displays anger like this again it is over. And you need to be firm in communicating this and carrying it out. The fact that you were scared and that he “came close” is enough to be concerned that this is the tip of the iceberg.

GoldieAV16's avatar

I see a red flag in one of your comments: “I have no doubt in my mind that he genuinely feels terrible.. but I also don’t know how to feel now.”

You know how he feels, but not how you feel?? Whoa. Put on the brakes. You DON’T know how he feels, nor should it concern you. Get back inside your own skin, and deal with what is going on with you. You DO know how you feel: afraid. (” I’ve never been afraid of a man before this point”). Do not minimize your own feelings. You have every right to feel safe with your boyfriend – ALL THE TIME.

I think that something pretty big happened here. Him not hitting you doesn’t earn him any points, in my book. Him not leaving after being asked to leave speaks volumes. Him making you feel afraid speaks volumes. Listen to the voice inside you that is telling you this is big. It is big. Now what? I’d say at the very least he gets some counseling, alone and with you. Or you break it off, which sends a very clear and important message to him about what is unacceptable. Stand up for yourself. Don’t ignore this.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Be very concerned on two counts. A) If he wasn’t exhibiting any standard “drunk” symptoms, he may drink a lot more than you know about regularly, and that’s a big red flag.
And B) Any physical aggression is cause for concern, at any time.
Good luck. This is a problem.

Judi's avatar

Wg
Hat @GoldieAV16 said.

mrentropy's avatar

Yes, you should be concerned. Yes, he may feel terrible but it’s not going to stop him from doing it again. I’m with @JilltheTooth and will go so far to say that he most likely has a drinking problem. And probably something else to go along with it.

wundayatta's avatar

I have a three strikes policy for just about everyone except maybe my wife and kids. It is a policy for mistakes. The first time you make the mistake, I tell you what you did and try to help you fix the mistake and learn how to do it better. The second time, I remind you of what we discussed last time, and ask you to tell me how you will fix it. The third time, I figure you can’t change your behavior, and I make a decision based on the significance of the mistake.

In some situations, I might shorten that to a two or one strike policy. In this case, that might be it for me. I would not put up with that again. However, if I was inclined to go against my fear and give him another chance, I would tell him he will never do that again around me if he wants to see me again after that. This is not three strike territory. That is the last time he does that to you, or he’s out the door the second he does it again and won’t be coming back without an army.

In my experience, alcohol never keeps me from knowing what I’m doing. It is not an excuse for getting away with something. If he let his loosened inhibitions make him behave that way, then I wouldn’t trust him to screw the cap back on the toothpaste again. Too late. Train already left the station.

Coloma's avatar

I agree, big red flag, and, IF he is a quiet, passive type, perhaps even passive aggressive, well…these personalities will often explode eventually. Learning to communicate ones angry feelings in non-violent ways is critical to the health of the individual as well as any relationship.
Yes, you have been warned. His behavior was INTENDED to intimidate you. Not good, not good at all.

gailcalled's avatar

Here’s how you described the man you wanted to be with…

Confidence, intelligence, humor, loyalty, manliness (I know it sounds stupid, but I like men to be.. well, men..), ambition, determination, stubbornness :)

Basically, I need someone that will push back – not be pushed over.
What makes the relationship work – is patience. He has to have a ton of it, and understanding. I can be a huge pain, especially when I’m stressed… which seems to be almost constantly the past few years. So, he has to be able to take things I say very lightly.

Well, for better or worse, he pushed back and he took one thing you said very lightly. However, he was way out of line, drunk and behaving in a threatening manner, Would you confuse that with determination, manliness and stubbornness?

Are you undervaluing yourself? Are you working on how to deal with your own “almost constant stress,” which you need to deal with before committing to a relationship?

RandomMrdan's avatar

Firstly – Aggressive behavior like this would bring about concern in my mind. I won’t hang out with friends who get drunk like that.

Secondly – Why did you wake him up after he was asleep? You said he was distracting… but he was asleep?

gailcalled's avatar

@RandomMrdan: Good point (second one).

SpatzieLover's avatar

Actually, I don’t like the first part of what you wrote @nromstadt: I had an exam the next day, and he just wanted to come over and sleep..

Whether he had been drinking or not, he was being ego-centric by coming over when you had an exam the next AM.

jca's avatar

All good points and answers above. I assume Gail got her info from a previous post you made. It’s interesting to read what you had written and what you are describing now, and how Gail points it out.

Did you clarify you did not want him over the night before the exam? I would not have let him fall asleep, knowing he was going to have to leave in the middle of the night. However, if it were me, I would have clarified that I did not want him coming over the night before the exam, so that there would have been no misunderstandings in the first place.

That said, I would not be ok with what he did. Of course he feels terrible now. He wants to tell you he feels terrible so you feel sorry for him (oh the poor thing feels terrible). Who cares what he feels? He f***ed up. To me, it’s a foretelling of what’s to come. He will probably drink again in your presence (or prior to seeing you) and like all couples, you’ll probably get into another argument. Do you want to be really scared next time? Do you want to find out if he would hit you? Do you want to be asking the same question you posted and making this same decision a few years down the line in the relationship? If you part ways now, and he wants to improve himself, you all can always get together in the future. Meanwhile, you get to work on your school work and he gets to work on his anger issues and drinking issues.

john65pennington's avatar

Men, when intoxicated are either A people or B people.

A men let the mean side of their personality show through. These are the type you really have to be careful with. These are the type that commit a homicide, under the influence of alcohol. I have seen this man times, while in uniform.

B men are laid back and mostly fun-loving. This type generally drinks too much and eventually head for the bed to sleep it off.

In your case, your bf has just let an unknown side of him, out of its cage, because of the alcohol. You can talk to him about this problem, that you have never seen before, but it most likely will not go away and will happen again.

Tell him where you stand with him and drinking alcohol.

Watch him closely. If you have serious plans for you two, be sure he understand that you will not tolerate over-indulgence of alcohol.

Give him another chance to prove himself, but tolerate no more.

jca's avatar

Is this the person you spoke of when you asked the question (on your greatest questions) “What should I do about a friend that drinks too much?” You did not say that was your boyfriend, but you are 18 and this person is (was) 20, so I am wondering if you were talking about this same person. Can you clarify?

Kardamom's avatar

I don’t know how long you’ve been with this boyfriend, but this is how it’s going to progress if you stay with him. He gets drunk, he gets mad, he screams and you and calls you names. You throw him out. If you don’t break up with him now, he will realize that you will put up with this. So next time, he’ll get drunk, you’ll try to throw him out and he’ll probably hit you. If you don’t break up with him at that time, he’ll know that you will put up with a lot more than just yelling and he’ll know that he can manipulate you buy telling you that he’s sorry. The next time, he’ll get drunk, you’ll probably cower in the corner, instead of trying to throw him out and he will hit you so hard that he’ll break a bone or break your nose or throw you down onto the floor and crack your head open.

This dude may or may not be an alcoholic, but he already has shown himself to have a propensity towards violence. Do not ever tolerate violence in your home. Do yourself a favor and part ways with him now.

Some of us here on Fluther have seen the consequences of what happens when young girls try to “save” these “tortured” souls. Don’t be one of those dumb girls.

Coloma's avatar

@Kardamom Bravo! Tell it like it is!

keobooks's avatar

I think some folk have the very mistaken notion that abusive guys don’t feel bad about what they do. So if they show signs of guilt or remorse, they aren’t really abusive. They just have “oops” moments now and then. From what I’ve seen, many many abusive people feel really guilty about what they do. They will act very remorseful and beg forgiveness. But no matter how sorry they seem, there is no guarantee they won’t do it again. In fact, they will almost always do it again once they find out you’re willing to forgive.

Some people claim it’s a form of manipulation. Sometimes they may be right. But sometimes, I really think they genuinely feel bad. They have extremely poor impulse control and probably regret what they do. But because their impulse control is poor, they can’t be trusted. So it doesn’t matter whether its genuine remorse or emotional blackmail. The results are the same.

I’ve posted about this before, but my father was extremely abusive when I was a kid. He never physically abused me, but he would clench his fists and fume with rage. He would act as if he were going to lose control and go on a rampage at any moment sometimes.

I never thought to myself “Thank god he never hits me” when I was growing up. I would pray that he WOULD hit me so that I would stop dreading it and I could finally have physical evidence of what he was doing to me. I would daydream about him beating the crap out of me so that he could go to jail. I found out later that my mom felt that way too. Over the years, I’ve met many other women who have been in relationships like this.

Not getting hit isn’t good enough. If the person you are dating gets bonus points from you because he doesn’t hit you—its time to hit the road.

BoyWonder's avatar

Being a former alcoholic (I quit cold-turkey due to a life-changing incident) I’ve been through many incidents where it all started out as an isolated incident and then the frequencies of these incidents increased. I used to get short tempered over small things, it was as if life itself and everything in it was always annoying the crap outta me. Your boyfriend doesn’t sound like a bad guy but you should be concerned for your own safety as well as his. Talk to him. Let him know how you feel and put your relationship up as an ultimatum. Let him know that you’re serious about how you feel and how scared you were. He needs to know that you forgive him (if you in fact do) and won’t tolerate that kinda behavior. Personally, it took something big for me to swear off alcohol forever and I’m a much better person because of it. I say if you can’t do it in moderation, don’t do it at all.

rebbel's avatar

To me, no matter how kind-hearted he is, no matter it was uncommon behavior he expressed, the fact that he ‘only’ threatened to use physical violence is enough.
Enough with this guy.

jca's avatar

I think if she sits down and talks to him and tells him how serious she feels and how scared she was, he is going to be manipulative and agreeable and sorry and sad about how stupid he was. Then she’ll forgive him, and he’ll behave for a few months, and this problem will come back again, and they’ll go into a pattern. I’m all for talking things out, but I think in this case he’s going to manipulate the situation and manipulate her feelings (because I’m sure she has some feelings for him, plus her feelings of sympathy).

Zaku's avatar

I didn’t read all of the replies above, but I did read Gail and @john65pennington‘s replies, and they make a lot of sense to me.

As I read your question, like @RandomMrdan asked, I wondered why he was distracting to you while he was asleep.

I think the episode gave you both things to examine, heal, and work out for yourselves about yourselves. And to talk through with him while he’s sober.

Men in this culture are taught to bottle their feelings up, which can be explosive when released, and alcohol and arguments and romantic relationships can be catalysts.

I would remember this event and ask myself what my limits and boundaries were about violence, anger, and alcohol with this man, and express, discuss, and hold firm to them, also having plans in advance for what to do when and if those boundaries get crossed. e.g. If he ever hit me, what I would say to escape his company, how I would then get safely away from him, etc.

I would also be thinking, ok, this was unacceptable – can I express my anger and other feelings about this to him, and is he hearing and respecting what I say and correcting it, or not. Everyone gets angry and may lose their temper, and it doesn’t have to mean the situation is not safe. In fact, it can be very healthy with appropriate agreements, trust and language used. But real danger and abuse is very much worth avoiding, too.

tinyfaery's avatar

Since it seems like you don’t have a history with abusers, I say just let him go now. From my experience, violent episodes NEVER happen just once.

nromstadt's avatar

You all have great advice, and it’s especially encouraging to see the amount of personal comments. I won’t say that I’m blameless, as there are many times in the past that I’ve started a fight with him, and he’s sat there calmly and just let me be mad. But I’m also not defending what he did.. Like I said, it completely caught me off guard.

As to his drinking – he does not drink often. Maybe less than once a week. We’re both 21 and have been together for a year and a half. He is incredibly busy double majoring in chemistry and geology.. and when he’s not in class, he’s often with me. So it’s not the frequency of drinking that is a problem – nor is it the volume, as this hasn’t happened before.

And as far as waking him up – there were no plans of him staying the night. He was just stopping over on his way back to his apartment (as he has to pass mine to get there) to see me for a while. I didn’t know he’d be falling asleep – and when he smelled like liquor and started snoring, he had to leave.

For now, I’m just laying low until I figure this out. I will definitely be cautious and thoughtful with how I proceed, as I really do have self-worth and put up with very little.. but I feel like I can’t quite condemn him for this. I have gotten very upset when drinking, too, and done some stupid things. Thanks again for all of your input, it really had put it into perspective for me.

CWOTUS's avatar

@BoyWonder‘s response resonates with me.

My estranged wife has told me many times of her “drunk, abusive” father, who frequently whipped her with a belt over nothing when she was a child and when he was drunk. I never knew him then. In all the years I’ve known him, he has been a pussycat. Not necessarily a milquetoast, but never explosive, never abusive, never violent. He has also never had a drink since I’ve known him.

tinyfaery's avatar

You are already blaming yourself and pretending nothing happened. You are on your way to victimhood. Once is enough, unless you are ready for it again and again and again…

chyna's avatar

@tinyfaery Said it best. Good luck.

jca's avatar

@nromstadt: You’re back pedaling a bit. Remember that feeling of being scared and out of control of the situation. Remember that familiar feeling next time it happens.

punkrockworld's avatar

Aggression and violence are never okay. Not even once! It’s in him somewhere and whatever happened that night triggered it to come out. If it’s there, it will come out again and I would not recommend it being you next time.

mrrich724's avatar

Get out.

Drunk or not, unless you started to physically attack you, there is no need for you to have experienced that.

Linda_Owl's avatar

Slapping something out of your hand because you were not ‘paying attention to him’ should tell you a great deal. You cannot trust an individual such as this. Their focus is on themselves & drinking increases this. You may not know exactly how you feel, but individuals such as this will say anything to get back into your good graces – but if you continue to see him, he will blow-up again at some point & you will wish that you had broken off the relationship when you had the first demonstration of his alcoholic violence.

jca's avatar

I like how you have changed your mind to take the blame yourself “I won’t say that I’m blameless, as there are many times in the past I’ve started fights with him.”

Now the focus is going to be on him and how bad he feels and how sorry he is. He is going to be really nice to you because not many girls will put up with that bullshit so he’s going to try his best to win you back. Head for the hills.

Kardamom's avatar

I agree with @tinyfaery and @jca. You have already decided that he “isn’t so bad” and “doesn’t often drink a lot” and “I also start fights.” You have already convinced yourself that you drove him to it. You are already on the path to being the victim of domestic abuse. I realize that @CWOTUS‘s experience has been that the person (his FIL) was a total menace before he met him and now he isn’t, but that kind of experience is the exception not the rule. But even the fact that FIL was a menace to his wife is horrific to me, even if he eventually stopped. Most abusers don’t stop.

You may indeed have a temper (most people do), but your boyfriend not only has a temper, he has already displayed actual violence (and very childish immature behavior) by knocking something out of your hands and then demanding that you look at him. He’s a control freak, whether or not he’s drunk or not. And for whatever reason (your youth, your adoration of your boyfriend, the idea of not having a boyfriend or whatever it is) you have decided to let it go and make this ugly situation appear to be less than what it was, a violent incident. Like I said before, don’t be one of those dumb girls who puts up with this sh*t.

This isn’t the penal system where you get 3 strikes and you are out. Once is too much. There are plenty of men in the world who would never do this. Find one of them.

Response moderated (Personal Attack)
Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@nromstadt My apologies to you for the attack, but I do think you really need to wake up and smell the coffee. If you want to PM me and rip me a new one I’ll understand.

CWOTUS's avatar

To back up what @Kardamom said, aside from him not drinking any more (so that I have never seen my father-in-law in “abuse” mode), the other thing that my wife did was to grow up, decide not to take that any more, and move away from the house at an early age and just get away from him. That also stops the abuse, when you physically remove yourself from its presence.

So. It’s possible for your boyfriend to stop drinking (or detach from whatever else triggers his bad behavior) and to change. But that’s unlikely unless it becomes mandatory for him to even have the relationship with you. And that won’t happen if you excuse it, take responsibility on yourself for his bad acts, etc.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@nromstadt I’m going to flag that and have it removed. I’m getting advice from wiser jellies that it’s too much. You may still rip me a new one if you’d like.

nromstadt's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe Yeah, it was a bit much, but I chose not to respond. I felt that responding to it would only further the idea that I’m immature and oblivious to what is going on.. neither of which are true. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and I asked the question – so, it’s not really right for me to be upset by what people post! I know you had good intentions. I’m not attempting to defend his actions, but there is no way for me to convey what I really think via a post.. and no matter what I say, people will read into it and interpret it how they see fit.

There is no way that I could have possibly put down all of the details, events leading up to it, what I said, how the relationship is, etc…. and therefore, I’m taking the outside perspectives for what they are worth – which is a lot. But it’s up to me to take the advice and warnings and place them into context when forming my next move. I’m still learning.. but I’m not a “dumbass”.... :)

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@nromstadt I apologize for that. I think we both know who the dumbass is and it’s not you. Just keep your eyes open.

dabbler's avatar

Personally I think there is a lot of room for improvement for both parties in this scenario. I think it’s simplistic to just throw the bum out.

I think @Coloma‘s point “Learning to communicate ones angry feelings in non-violent ways is critical to the health of the individual as well as any relationship ” is insightful. Most of us have approximately zero role models in this regard. If you’re someone who “start fights too” then you both don’t know what to do when you’re angry.

Also Mr. boyfriend needs to learn how to identify the source of his pain, a grownup skill. Any child will act out when hungry, angry, tired or ill. Grownups know better and will recognize, “hey, my tooth hurts” or “hey, I have an f’ing hangover” and understand their feelings up front and act appropriately despite them. I would bet stupid Mr. boyfriend wasn’t even angry, except perhaps that you woke him up. He was in pain. – and it’s totally his responsibility to understand: it’s just pain (e.g. a frickin’ headache), and behave himself properly anyway.

IF Mr. boyfriend was actually angry, it was definitely his responsibility to: a) know that b) understand that he was not bloody likely to be able to discuss his problem with respect and clarity while either drunk or hung over, he should have made an appointment with you to discuss the matter later and removed himself from the situation (or at minimum respect your demand that he leave) c) know that if he is to bring up some problem he has to do that in a respectful clear way in order to get what he wants, presumably your sympathy and a solution.

For your part you may have been able to defuse the situation by expressing some sympathy for whatever’s bothering him and making an appointment to discuss it later when you’re both ready and able (i.e. no homework to do and no hangover).

You could both use some training and practice managing feelings. You need to do this for yourselves and for any relationships you are in and will be in.

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